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NDB money wars exposed

NDB CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS: Lorato Morapedi

The National Development Bank (NDB) is trading on thin ice as profits are on a downward spiral and recent indications suggest that they will register a loss for the first time. The Development Bank stands at P320 million in arrears, the main factor that has pit management against staff.


WeekendPost is in possession of documents that illustrate disagreements between management and staff concerning the financial standing and future of the bank. Whistle blowers at the bank have revealed that the 2014/15 financial report which is expected to register a loss of the bank for the first time is still kept under the carpet.


“The Bank is anticipating an operational loss due to high impairments and provision thereof, an interest rate constrained environment, leading to reduced liquidity and this scenario is not only peculiar to NDB,” NDB Head of Branding, Marketing and Communications Harry Marks said.


It is understood that while the financials for 2014 are yet to be approved – the bank is anticipating an operational loss.


Documents passed to this publication, confirm the anticipated loss – the financial position of the bank is in a disturbing state and this is exacerbated by the high level of non-performing accounts.


The bank has an unprecedented number of non-performing accounts.  The total NDB portfolio is P1, 769, 398, 215.00 with total arrears at P319, 035 431.00,” states a letter sent to Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo dated 16 February 2015 which has been passed to this publication.


“The Bank is constantly borrowing from other commercial Banks which it competes with to lend to the general public. These commercial banks lend NDB funds at unfavourable rates and very onerous conditions as they have taken the view that NDB is a high credit risk – especially because of its management inability to curb the bad debt situation that is spiraling out of control,” the letter reads.


It is understood that the commercial banks often require additional surety or guarantee from government because of the shaky ground on which the bank finances are standing. In another letter dated 12 December 2014 from the National Development bank Employees Union (NDBEU) to the board chairperson, the bank employees are concerned about the bank’s debt.


“To date, and as is the case every year, management is struggling to persuade the external auditors to endorse the annual accounts. As usual, management and staff are called upon to cook up some gymnastic explanation with regard to its bad debt provisioning methodology, and generally account for how it has factored the impact of its substantial uncollectable debt. Such a situation cannot be allowed to persist as an annual ritual, year in and year out.”


According to the information, the bank’s financial position has also been negatively impacted by the decision on implementation of several projects (refurbishment, rebranding etc), all done within a relative short time.

The Some employees state that prioritization on project implementation, employees’ state, was not at all well carried out despite very restrained resources. Refurbishments, sources say were done at the tune of 85 million of which P6.5 million was splashed at the rented Palapye branch.


“Naturally therefore certain projects have now been stopped midway. The office refurbishment and rebranding project has been stalled for example, which presents a very embarrassing scenario given that management has been advertising extensively to the general public that they will now be seeing a brand new bank,” NDBEU said through their letter to bank board Chairperson Mr. L. Seitei who has served for more than 10 years in the position.


This publication is informed that the bank is currently faced with challenges in making disbursements at adequate levels because there are insufficient funds for loan disbursements. This, it is believed, has resulted in delayed service delivery and is affecting the credibility of the bank. “Yet there is no formal or open communication to staff with regard to details of the liquidity situation and what they should expect, or what is expected of them.”
 
According to Marks, overall the banking sector has been experiencing a decline in profitability due to the aftershocks of the 2008 world economic meltdown and partly due to a combination of the factors stated. In addition NDB’s development mandate focuses on start-ups and sectors that are susceptible to diseases and drought such as agriculture, he added. NDB’s primary role is to provide Agricultural loans to farmers and/or potential farmers.


Although the bank said to be in financial trouble, the NDB spokesperson explained that the bank has been performing well since 2010; with total assets increasing by 60% from P1 billion to P1.6 billion in 2014 as a result of an increase in net loans and advances.


However he conceded that the bank’s financial performance has been declining: “the bank has also been profitable during this period (since 2010) with profit declining yearly at P57.8million, P48.6million, P40.5 million, and P45.8million in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.


NDB employees have previously warned the bank management that a downward spiral in performance would ultimately lead the bank to a position that is not favourable for stakeholders. Some stakeholders are already aware that the bank is facing very serious liquidity problems and is currently unable to pay out loan funds – which is the core mandate – even to applicants whose loans have been approved.


“Loan files that are awaiting disbursement of funds are said to have been stacked up and deliberately delayed as an unofficial internal policy so as to manage the financial crisis. Seasonal agricultural loans, especially those of significant amounts, which should have long been disbursed to farmers for the current rain season, are still pending disbursement. All the while customers have been kept in the dark with regard to what is happening with the processing of their loans,” one of the stakeholders said.


The bank is predicting a loss of an estimated P87 million – which is attributed to lack of financial management. The bank is said to be not performing to its optimum best – in the past five years it was making profits of around P48 million.


When contacted for comment NDBEU President, Gilbert Watshipi was reluctant to share information on the alleged financial crises at the bank. He refused to shed light on any information saying it is internal and insisted that bank management and Finance minister Matambo are in talks with staff to address the challenges faced by the bank. “That issue is internal – and besides we are not allowed to speak to the media,” Watshipi pointed out.


Meanwhile Member of Parliament for Mabule/Goodhope, James Mathokgwane is expected to rally parliament to move a motion calling for a commission of inquiry on alleged maladministration, financial mismanagement, corruption and nepotism at NDB in July sitting.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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